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Residents of southeastern Virginia are not happy with the region's roads and traffic flow, but they express satisfaction and optimism about other elements of their quality of life, according to a survey conducted by an Old Dominion University political science professor.

The 2005 Greater Hampton Roads Quality of Life Survey was released in mid-September by its author, Assistant Professor Joshua G. Behr, who received public and private funding to produce this second annual survey. The 1,017 respondents were interviewed by telephone by staffers at the ODU Social Science Research Center.

Traffic was by far the most common answer when respondents were asked to identify the region's biggest problem.

Only slightly more than 17 percent of respondents rated the flow of traffic on the region's roads as good or excellent; about 47 percent rated the flow as poor. About 44 percent said their workday commutes have gotten worse or much worse over the past five years, while fewer than 10 percent said their commutes had become better or much better.

Most respondents said they recently had chosen not to visit a business in a neighboring city due to concerns about traffic congestion. Also, nearly 60 percent picked construction of light rail systems over more road lanes and tunnels as the way Hampton Roads should relieve its traffic problems over the next 25 years.

Reaction to the region's traffic congestion was a drag on the survey's standardized QOL Index. However the index found most respondents to be upbeat when questioned about other indicators ranging from cost of living to local government services. The overall index was 53.22, which Behr described as "remarkably high relative to other similar-sized urban areas."

He noted a slight drop in the QOL Index this year from 55.21 in 2004, but said it was "not large enough to say with confidence that there has been a real change" in quality of life. "A trend line is not necessarily smooth but, rather, the totality of many smaller bumps and dips, and this simply may be the one of those bumps," he added. "I anticipate that this community will watch with interest for an unfolding trend line as we take these annual measurements over the next decade"

The survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, breaks out responses by locality (six counties and eight cities are included) and by race, socio-economic groups and military affiliation.

Among counties, the QOL Index was high in Mathews, York and James City, but lower in the Eastern Shore counties of Northampton and Accomack. Residents in Virginia Beach and Poquoson were significantly more positive in their responses than residents in Portsmouth, Norfolk and Hampton. Also, military families were more than twice as likely as respondents overall to believe military presence was the most positive thing in the region.

"The breadth and depth off this survey will inform public debate within the Hampton Roads community," Behr said. "We can now make meaningful comparative statements on any number of substantive questions along any number of demographic and/or geographic variables."

Among the survey findings:

·"Beaches and water activities" was the most frequent answer when respondents were asked about the most positive thing in the region. "Climate" was second and "overall variety of activities" was third.
·About 51 percent of respondents rated the region's cost of living as affordable or very affordable. Slightly less than 12 percent said the area is a very expensive place to live.
·About 51 percent of respondent rated employment opportunities excellent or good. Only about 15 percent rated the opportunities poor.
·About 55 percent of respondents rated local government services good or excellent. Only 8 percent rated the services poor.
·About 52 percent of respondents rated public kindergarten-12th grade education good or excellent, and more than 73 percent rated the region's higher education good or excellent.
·Almost 85 percent of respondents rated fire and emergency services good or excellent and 73 percent rated law enforcement good or excellent.
·Seventy-four percent of respondents rated parks and recreation good or excellent.
·Almost 70 percent of respondents rated arts and cultural activities good or excellent.
·About 55 percent of respondents rated race relations good or excellent. Slightly less than 10 percent said race relations are poor. Among African Americans, only about 36 percent said race relations were good or excellent and about 19 percent said the relations are poor.
·Almost 83 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "My city should put more focus on preserving open space."
·Asked about ideology, 38.6 percent of respondents said they were moderately conservative and 13.3 percent very conservative, compared with 34 percent who said they were moderately liberal and 11.3 percent very liberal.

The 2005 survey report is at: http://www.odu.edu/bpa/creed/news.htm

This article was posted on: September 20, 2005

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